Happy sequestration day. The sky most likely won’t fall at 11:59pm tonight when President Obama signs the order implementing terms of a deal struck with Congress designed to be so odious that no person in their right mind would allow it to happen.
That should tell us a lot about the current mental state of the nation’s politicians. But it doesn’t. The horrible deal, as it turns out, isn’t all that horrible, at least in the short run.
Guess who won’t be feeling the effects of sequestration? From Bloomberg News:
The cuts, known as sequestration, will have no impact on the president, U.S. lawmakers and other top government officials. It is especially ironic that Congress, which has the power to avert the reductions, has nothing to lose in the negotiations, said Dan Gordon, former head of federal procurement in the Obama administration.
“The members of Congress are damaging our country by their refusal to repeal sequestration, and I think the American public would like them to personally feel some of the pain they are imposing,” said Gordon, an associate dean at George Washington University law school in Washington.
Here’s a link that should answer any technical questions you might have about sequestration.
Democratic threats of doom and gloom are obscured by the nature of the federal budgetary process. Think of the government as a cruise ship. Just because the captain yells “all stop” doesn’t mean the forward motion of the vessel ceases.
So it is with sequestration, Obama style. He would have been better off saving some of the drama for after March 1st and instructing the bureaucracy to institute some surprise shutdowns. Nothing says ‘damn the Congress’ to a voter like having their weekend ruined by a closed campground. Hey, it worked for Bill Clinton.
This latest drama is hardly a good thing for Republicans, either. Despite their attempts to deflect criticism by vigorous promoting the ‘blame game’, in the long run the smirks on their collective faces will come back to haunt them. Their reputation of being the party of “no!” cannot be obscured by posturing or pontificating.
I am not saying that either or both ‘sides’ are to ‘blame’ here. It’s much bigger than that. The whole ‘game’ is rigged.
I Digress for a Moment…
Which brings me to around to Eugene McDaniels, Roberta Flack, Eddie Harris and Les McCann…
Composer McDaniels was a moderately successful pop singer/songwriter back in the 1960’s, whose creative life took a profound turn following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. Out of the pathos of that period emerged “Compared to What”, initially recorded by a then-unknown singer named Roberta Flack appearing as the opening track on her debut recording, First Take (1969).
A live version of the song, recorded later that year by pianist Les McCann and saxophonist Eddie Harris at the Montreux Jazz Festival became an international hit. Its scathing critique of social realities became an anthem for a generation ready to change the world. A riff on the forces of reaction taking aim at the clergy, “poor dumb rednecks,” “tired old ladies,” and the Vietnam War ended with an outburst of frustration: “God Damn It!’. “Trying to make it real, compared to what?”
Today’s news makes me think of that song.
On with the news wrapup…
Weighing in on Proposition 8
Well, they waited until the last minute, but the Obama administration did the right thing, sort of. From the New York Times:
The Obama administration threw its support behind a broad claim for marriage equality on Thursday, and urged the Supreme Court to rule that voters in California were not entitled to ban same-sex marriage there.
In a forceful argument, the administration claimed that denying gay couples the right to marry violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause. It said that Proposition 8, the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, should be subjected to “heightened scrutiny” — a tough test for any law — and stated flatly that “Proposition 8 fails heightened scrutiny.”
But it wasn’t the whole-hearted support some might hope for. From the NY Times editorial today:
The legal analysis advanced by the Obama administration leads inexorably to the conclusion that all attempts to ban same-sex marriage are inherently unconstitutional. But the administration stopped short of declaring that truth, recognized earlier this week even by the Republicans’ brief. In fact, the administration said the court need not consider the constitutionality of marriage bans beyond the context of this particular scheme.
Why the Violence Against Women Act is Important
A two year long wait ended yesterday as the 113th Congress finally reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. The act funds organizations that provide legal assistance and shelter operations for victims of domestic violence. It also toughens federal sentences for stalking. The House voted 286-138 to pass the Senate version of the bill, with 87 Republicans joining 199 Democrats to make up the majority.
This used to be the sort of legislation that enjoyed wide bipartisan support going back 20 years. But the social-conservative wing of the GOP blocked reauthorization. At a minimum, they insisted on deleting provisions that extended federal jurisdiction to tribal authorities to prosecute cases on reservations, that targeted discrimination against LGBT victims and that allowed illegal immigrant survivors of domestic abuse to seek legal status.
Why the big deal? Here’s Cindy Southworth of National Network to End Domestic Violence on the PBS News Hour:
Just since 1994, we have seen almost a 50 percent increase in reporting … and that’s not 50 percent increase in incidents of domestic violence. It’s more victims reaching out. They’re calling the police. They know there are services available and they’re getting help.
We have also seen almost a 30 percent — or a 34 percent even — decrease in homicides of women, and even more startling, almost 60 percent less homicides of men, primarily by their female partners when they felt they had no other choice.
From the Party of Less Government… CISPA Redux
House Republicans have re-introduced the previously failed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), including most of its original flaws and raising serious concerns about personal privacy.
This bill still gives private companies complete immunity for sharing customer information with the government, including the military or the NSA, without removing personally identifiable information. This allows government and private companies to create a surveillance program with no transparency or public accountability.
CISPA as written by the House would trump all of the other protections the government has established for keeping financial records, medical records, personal communication and other sensitive data private. Companies could share any and all of your information with the government in the name of national security, and there’s nothing you could do about it.
This was a bad bill last year, and it’s a bad bill now.
What the Heck is a Parklet? And Why is North Park Getting One?
The announcement yesterday via Facebook read: “North Park Main Street and Bob Filner are proud to bring one of the first Parklets to San Diego, which will be located in front of Caffe Calabria”. Like any good web denizen, I went straight to Wikipedia:
A parklet is a small space serving as an extension of the sidewalk to provide amenities and green space for people using the street. It is typically the size of several parking spaces. Parklets typically extend out from the sidewalk at the level of the sidewalk to the width of the adjacent parking space, though some have been built at the level of the street with access from the sidewalk.
Parklets are intended for people. Parklets offer a place to stop, to sit, and to rest while taking in the activities of the street. In instances where a parklet is not intended to accommodate people, it may provide greenery, art, or some other visual amenity. A parklet may accommodate bicycle parking within it, or bicycle parking may be associated with it.
This is one of those “San Franciso” ideas about making urban life nicer. Cool.
The first parklet was created in 2005 as an unofficial activist project by Rebar art and design studio, by feeding a parking meter with coins, unrolling grass sod, and placing a potted tree on top. Later, the city’s “Pavement to Parks” program facilitated their installation. Parklets have sprung up in Philadelphia, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Vancouver, British Columbia
I can’t wait for the UT-San Diego to denounce it.
Psst! The clerk at my local 7-11 store says the UT is raising their price next week. Things must be going really swell down there in Mission Valley.
A New Kind of Debate in District 4
With San Diego’s District 4 special election less than a month away (March 26th), the folks at ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) have announced a new way to get to know the candidates – a walking tour.
Eight candidates are running for the open seat in Council District 4 in San Diego. ACCE members will be hosting a tour on Saturday, March 2nd starting at 1:30pm for council candidates to talk about key issues impacting the community such as street paving, streetlights, clean sewers, crime, foreclosures and jobs.
The event will start at the corner of Market Street and Merlin Drive. Confirmed attendees include Myrtle Cole, Dwayne Crenshaw, Barry Pollard, and Blanca Lopez Brown. For more information or to RSVP, go here.
Did You Know?
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor missed 44 Days during the 112th Congress. He received $194,000 in salary and asked for re-imbursement for $794,000 in expenses. http://disbursements.house.
On This Day: 1872 – Congress authorized the creation of Yellowstone National Park. It was the world’s first national park. 1961 – The Peace Corps was established by President Kennedy. 1969 – Jim Morrison (Doors) was arrested and officially charged with lewd and lascivious behavior, indecent behavior, open profanity and public drunkenness in Miami. Morrison was later sentenced. Morrison died while the sentence was under appeal.
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